Hey, you: fan of car movies. And you: fan of dance movies. Why don’t you sit down so I can lay some cold hard truth on you.
You know how one of you loves the Fast and Furious movies and how the other loves the Step Up movies? Well, guess what? You both love pretty much the same thing. Seriously. The differences are almost entirely cosmetic. Swap out the cars for dancing and vice versa and you’ll essentially end with the same movie in the end.
But don’t mistake this for a criticism: this is all said with love. Both franchises are a ton of fun and the fact that they’re ultimately the exact same thing only makes us more fond of them both. Let’s break this down.
It may seem weird to think about it now, but there was a time when the Fast and Furious and Step Up movies took themselves pretty seriously. Go back and watch the first films again. Sure, they’re silly, but they don’t feel intentionally goofy. In fact, they’re straight-faced enough to elicit more laughs than they would if they went out of their way to get silly. Interestingly, this similar starting point accidentally set the tone for both franchises — after their first entry proved unintentionally wacky, each subsequent film decided to simply embrace it and roll into the crazy. Most importantly, both do it with a straight face. As the plots get more ludicrous, both franchises keep their poker faces strong… which only makes everything even crazier.
Fetishizing a Very Specific Niche
Although most people will acknowledge or appreciate the talent involved in dancing and driving, they’re relatively niche hobbies/activities/lifestyles at the end of the day. But to the characters in the Fast and Furious and Step Up series, their entire lives revolve around their chosen skill. Every breath every character takes is in service of dancing/driving and it doesn’t look obsessive or deranged. Nah, it looks downright sexy. When you watch these movies, you don’t think these people are sad for having one interest and one interest only. Instead, you wonder why you aren’t out street racing or street dancing or something in between. Their lives really do look so much more interesting than yours and they only care about one thing!
Willingness to Take Wild Left Turns
We’ve already mentioned how both franchises have embraced the inherent silliness that’s been at their core since the start, but what’s more important than that is how they’ve refused to get stuck in a rut. It would have been extremely easy for every Fast and Furious movie to follow the “cops vs. street racers” template set by the first film and for every Step Up movie to replicate the “drama in a dance school” formula of the first movie, but almost every subsequent sequel has denied going down the easy path. Although the Step Up 2: The Streets also revolves around a dance school, the type of dancing at the core of the film and how it’s utilized in the plot is wildly different. And if you think the Fast and Furious series turning its cast of crooks into superheroes over six films was crazy, just look to Step Up Revolution (the fourth one), which finds its protagonists using dance as a unique form of political protest. All of these movie are ultimately about driving/dancing, but the packaging is always different enough to throw you for a loop.
When The Fast and the Furious opened in 2001, no one could have predicted that it would spawn five sequels (with a sixth in development), with the later films eclipsing the box office of the earlier entries. The Step Up films haven’t been quite as consistent at the box office, but it’s hard to imagine anyone seeing the franchise pump out a film every two years like clockwork, leading to five films in less than a decade. Whether you see them or skip them, the Fast and Furious and Step Up movies have become a unmovable part of the modern movie landscape. They’re here, they feel like they’ve always been here, and they’re probably not going away for a long time. Both films have burrowed themselves in for the long haul. No one saw them sticking around, but they’re going to hang around no matter what.
Cast Members Reunite… and It Feels Like an Event
When Vin Diesel officially returned to the franchise with Fast and Furious, it felt like an event. So the franchise doubled down on that with Fast Five, which reunited as many cast members from the previous films as possible… and it worked. Hell, it didn’t just “work,” it reinvigorated the entire series, transforming it into an ensemble piece where any combination of characters could prove wildly entertaining. Although cast members from previous Step Up films have popped up in later movies before, the newest film, Step Up All In, is doubling down on this concept, hoping to capture that Fast and Furious magic. Taking place at a major dance competition in Las Vegas, the film reunites characters from all four previous films, pitting them head-to-head to see who will come out on top. And Step Up 6 will probably have these characters challenging invading aliens to a dance-off. We can only hope!
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